………..Well no sooner have I succumbed to the Dark Side, than Waterstones, my favourite High Street shop (in fact the ONLY High Street shop I like!) has followed suit and gone over to the Dark Side too!
About 10 days ago, I wrote here in a post-cum-confession that I’d finally succumbed to the Dark Side and was now in possession of a Kindle. As I said in that post, even though my reasoning was maximising my reading time, and therefore my reading pleasure, I still felt very uncomfortable in taking ownership of a Kindle. And even though I had rational reasons about using time and the ease of taking books on holiday, deep down it felt like a bit of a dirty, grubby little act on my part – somehow I felt I’d betrayed books and everything bookish!
Then a couple of days ago the news filtered through of the commercial deal between Waterstones and Amazon – and suddently it seemed that Yoda’s words above had taken on the most prophetic of rings!
I was initially very surprised at the news, and now, having had a couple of days to consider it, I have to say I remain pretty concerned. I really do like Waterstones and I desperately want it to survive alongside the independent bookshops I love. I’m often struck by the impersonal feel of the bookshelves in my local Tesco – it leaves me cold and I studiously avoid buying there or at any other supermarket. There is for me a fundamental difference between buying a book as a function and buying a book as an experience – you can get the former in Tesco but you sure as hell don’t get the latter! Old-fashioned I might be, but I loathe the idea of reducing the joy of buying books to an experience on a par with buying milk!!
One of the things I like most about Waterstones is the variation between stores and the ways in which they reflect different situations – I guess that’s partly about the people who shop in a particular branch and the people who work in it. But it means that I go to certain stores because I’m more at ease in one than another. I’d hate Waterstones to lose this policy of individuality for different stores when it gets into a commercial bed with a behemoth like Amazon. I’ve read many of the articles in the past few days, noting the seeming about-face by James Daunt at Waterstones from his initial view of Amazon as “a ruthless money-making devil” to now talking of the partnership as “truly exciting”. To be honest I think it’s one of those things where we’ll have to wait and see what happens – I hope that Daunt will be right and that it’ll strengthen Waterstones.
On the news of their deal becoming public, one of the Waterstones stores ran a very funny and clever on-line Twitter poll to choose their new enemy from a list of five candidates – Tesco, Sainsbury, WH Smith, B and Q and Dreams (every poll needs a spoof candidate – although only the Liberal Democrats tend to be outvoted by them!). The winner, was Tesco and I tend to think the voting public are right. And yet, perhaps, the real enemy for Waterstones is the one they’ve just invited in – a bit like in Judith Kerr’s The Tiger Who Came To Tea – will the Kindle be a benevolent friendly tiger or ravenous beast?!! Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm – jury’s out I guess!
And as for Yoda’s prophecy about the implications for my destiny having let the Dark Side in, well following on from my own capitulation and that of Waterstones to the all-consuming attraction of the Kindle, yesterday when I was walking the dog and reading Beryl Bainbridge via the Dark Side at the same time, further evidence emerged that now Mother Nature can’t resist reading the Kindle either!